Feb 18

The Storm

Edleburg was a happy town. It rested on cliffs at the foothills of the great mountains to the north. The looming shadows cast by the mountains were woven into daily life, as common as the grass and the sky. Throwing a dark veil over Edleburg until noon when the sun escaped the jagged peaks. Some would say that the mountains were slowly pushing Edleburg over the cliffs to the sea below. If one were able to climb the lonely trail to the high peaks of the mountains, they would see that the town itself was trapped. Completely surrounded by jutting rock on three sides and the ocean below. The mountains, though there were many, had but one name. The people of Edleburg called them the Snake Mountains. Coiling around the town and stretching much farther in the East and West. A chain of mountains resembling the body of a serpent, slithering up the coastline. I for one believe that the mountains were called the Snake Mountains for a different reason. They hugged the town so tightly as if it was their prey. As if the mountains themselves were one gigantic boa constrictor. Slowly circling Edleburg with a deadly grip. Drawing life from the old town, inch by inch as they pushed Edleburg closer to the edge of the cliff. Nevertheless, Edleburg was a happy town. It had approximately 45 women, 67 men, 1 barber, 2 mailmen, 3 priests, 5 teachers, and a small council of 4 men. With ample room for farming and fields for livestock, they had not much need to wander the lonely path up and over the mountains. So life continued day in day out in the little town. I do not believe that it should even be called a town. There were only sixty or so houses and shops that lined the dusty streets. A small village some would say. Houses of brick nestled tightly against their neighbors. Such a small village as it was that no one ever bothered paving the streets. The strong wind that came off of the sea kicked up clouds of dust. This meant the South sides of houses were covered with a shell of dirt and sand.

 The interesting thing was, that no one in Edleburg was a fisherman, in fact, no one even knew how to fish. Even if they did, it would take a lot of rope and a fair bit of agility to scale the cliffs to the heap of algae-covered boulders below. Once you reached the bottom of the cliff, the sea was no less fierce. Plumes of cold water sprayed the rocky shore, at high tide, they eroded caves into the cliffs. A wave would send you crashing into the boulders before you could set a boat in the water, much less sail away. No one in Edleburg liked to think of what was over those cliffs, not even wander to the edge. Sunrise to sunset, the cliffs sat there. As if saying try me, I bet you wouldn’t dare! So frightening, yet so appealing. The temptation is what weakens our self-control, till we find ourselves sitting on the edge, legs dangling over the cliff. But against their greatest temptation, no one in Edleburg dared to go remotely near the edge of the cliff. There had been a few occasions through the years where some unsuspecting dog or young child would chase a butterfly to the crumbling edge and go plummeting over the brink. Anyone with a sense of knowledge would know that to go tramping near the cliff meant you were dabbling on brink of death. Why not put up a fence? Some would say. Yes, I do believe that it would have been wise to nail a few stakes into the collapsing dirt at the brim of the cliff. The thing was, no one was brave enough to wander that close to the edge accidentally, much less purposely. 

Edleburg was built in a mysterious way. It was centered around the small church. A place for Sunday worship, it also served as the schoolhouse throughout the week. It consisted of two cramped rooms. The first of which was for Sunday Mass, with rows of faded oak pews, it could house the whole village if everyone took small breaths. Thus, it also became a place for meetings. Annually a small council of men gathered the town to discuss matters of crop and new establishments. In a small village such as Edleburg, a new establishment was usually just a larger selection of seeds or a newborn calf. Whatever the cause for collection, it always became hot and stuffy so as men loosened ties and women tugged on waistlines. Villagers on the sides of the pews would pop the latch and crack open the stained glass panels, which depicted the stages of the cross and let in the fresh air and colorful light. Before the pews, stood a stained oak alter. The center was a lighter color and formed a small dip in the wood. The many bibles that had graced that exact spot had been in the thousands. In fact, the alter was one of the first things that made its way over the mountains. It was outdated only by the heavy bell on the top of the building, which had told the hour for what seemed like the last century. To the right of the pew, there was an opening into a cramped room that annexed the church. A total of twenty desks sat in rows facing the metal desk at the front of the room. The desks gaped with wide mouths stuffed with papers and pencils. The metal desk, which was designated for the teacher, was a dusty gray and it’s few drawers squeaked on their hinges. This classroom was usually bustling with children but was left cold and empty on the weekends. The rest of the town rippled out from the church, two circles of houses and shops separated by a single road. This left a grassy ring surrounding the church. With two rings circling the church, the layout of the town resembled a bullseye. As if, it was the target, as if it was the victim. 
Carmen Bridgwood looked out of her kitchen window. Her house was situated with a view out and over the cliff. A look of worry spread across her face, a storm was approaching over the horizon. It appeared to be as black as the one Edleburg had gotten last May. She shivered in her sweater, disliking the thought of more of the cliff eroding. Tumbling down to the boulders below. Her house was so closely placed to the edge that she could throw a stone to the ocean below. She looked back down to the murky water, hair caressing her brow, a pile of plates sitting in the sink. Carmen had eaten up a complete bowl of noodles and sauce the night before and the tomatoes were turning the sink water a dark red. She scrubbed down the rest of the plates as she looked at the picture on the windowsill. Her brother Sam had disappeared in the middle of the storm last May. To bring up the subject in conversation, even to bat it around in her memory, gave Carmen both a sharp pain and a fearful tremble. It was like fingering a wound, a wound Carmen knew may never heal. Though nobody in Edleburg blamed her, Carmen felt responsible for Sam’s disappearance. It was late May when the men were just starting to plow and seed the fields. Carmen had fallen ill with the flu, and Sam, being the brother he was, went out to buy her medicine. Edleburg did not have a hospital, but it did have a convenient store with medications made from what was grown in the fields. Sam grabbed his coat and headed out the door. The wind whipped, swirling up dirt and sand. One elder reported seeing Sam crossing the path to the church, but no one ever saw Sam again. Some said that he may have lost his footing and fell over the cliff, but Sam never wandered near the cliff that night. Others wonder if someone killed him, snuck behind and murdered poor Sam. There was some speculation on the idea of a murderer, but why would anyone want to kill Sam? No one quite knew what happened, nor did they like to think about it. They sealed it up in an envelope and hid in a locked drawer. Taking a peek every now and then only to be reminded that there was evil at work here. 

Due to her illness and the loss of her brother, no one expected Carmen to survive. But she did. Now in the comfort of her home, she looked around, realizing that she needed to leave. She needed to race up the path over the mountains. Something she had contemplated many times. Wishing for the green grass of a lawn she could not quite see. Carmen’s eyes flickered around the house, trying to find her pocketbook with her small amount of cash. As she stood looking around the lonely room, things began to spin. She watched as the rose in the white vase seemed to float closer then retreated to the table by the window. The doily on the kitchen table swirled in circles before her eyes. A mist of nausea floated over her. She glanced at her wallet on the table by the door, it seemed to be laughing, mocking her. Carmen herself felt her neck lolling her head forward and back, up and down. She grabbed hold of the couch, hoping to still the motion, and ended up toppling over onto the pillows. She closed her eyes. Clenching the swirling world out of her vision. She let out an exhausted sigh. Something would not let her leave. Something wanted her to stay.
A vase crashed to the ground. Causing Carmen to wake with a start. A film of sweat sat like a skin on her face. She sat up, remembering all that had happened in the morning. The grey sky told Carme it was an hour after sunset. With swirls of red and pink and grey. It seemed quite windy for the evening, gusts rattled windows and sent sand shooting in under the door. Carmen eyed the clock, half-past two. A jolt of surprise shot through her, half-past two?!? The sky was dark, as angry black as the evenings. She stumbled to the window, pushing her face against the glass, trying to see the charcoal sky. She stared at the circling dark above her and saw a sliver of blue. A blip of robins egg in the sea of black. Why was there blue? she wondered, then it hit her. There wasn’t something wrong with her clock, it was the storm, blocking out the sky. A black mass hovering over the town, it was upon them, the storm. 
Carmen pushed open her front door. Actually, I wouldn’t say pushed open, she only got it to open a few inches before it was slammed back in her face. It rattled in its frame as if an elephant was crashing into it. The picked up her umbrella off the stand by the door. A picture of her and Sam fell crashing to the floor. She looked back at the living room down the hallway, the whole place was spinning. The walls shook the furniture into a beat so loud it could have been heard from over the mountains. Carmen threw the umbrella aside and ran to the dining room. She scooted under the dinner table bracing herself against the legs. Her cheeks and eyebrows squished together in a look of worry. If it was this bad in the house, how windy was it outside? She hugged the table tightly, three big booms shook the house. Someone’s at the door, she thought with a chuckle. The next five minutes seemed as long as an hour. Carmen sat shaking with the house, for the knocks continued and the walls trembled. The lights flickered out, a wave of darkness settled over the house. A cloud of thunder rippled through the wind and a shot of lightning illuminated the house. The flash of lightning was just bright enough for Carmen to see the cracks climbing up the walls. Shaking in the dark, she did not have to have light to know that more cracks were spreading up the drywall. She heard as the breaks cracked down the hallway and into the living room. A sharp slitting sound, that which a child makes with a carrot, could be heard from her place under the kitchen table. The living room collapsed in a matter of seconds. It flung a wave of rubble and dust to Carmen. Run! The debris said as it fell past her, now crumbling off the ceiling. She sprang up, darting to the door. Against the strong wind, she flung it open and the wind finished the job by snapping it off its hinges. The wind hit her with a plume of sand, almost sending her tumbling back into the house. Carmen used the door frame to slingshot herself to the picket fence that was meant to protect the house. Thanks for the protection, Carmen said to the fence, feeling real safe right about now. The wind twisted her hair this way and that. It ripped up the carrots from her garden and the cabbage along with it. She turned back to the house in hopes of some kind of help. She sucked in a sharp breath of dust, her house lay in rubble. It looked like a twisted spider web, timbers crisscrossing each other as they sat on the ground. It was a giant-sized game of pick up sticks. In all the ruckus of the storm, Carmen had not even heard her house crumble behind her. She gripped the fence so hard her knuckles whitened. Carmen screamed into the storm, why? She yelled, what have I done to deserve this? The wind whispered no reply, it only proceeded in ripping the first few fence stakes out of the ground. As if a chain of dominoes, the stakes yanked out of the ground one by one, till most of Carmen’s picket fence flourished like a ribbon in the wind. She knew the stake she so tightly gripped would soon be whisked away with the others, so she lunged for the nearest tree. The wind that day was as strong as 50 fine oxen but it was confused. Confused you say, how can wind be confused? Well my friend, the wind that day was not just a freak storm or even a gust from the sea. I have said it once and I will say it again, there was evil at work here. That day the magic was confused, confused about what, I am not quite sure. Carmen was brumbled to the tree. Is brumbled a word? Well, anything can be a word if you say it is. I had spent many a time trying to come up with a different word but none could fit. This shall be my word, for it is mine. Carmen spent many a minute brumbling to each tree. What does brumbling look like? Well, it is like bumbling but more but louder. The wind sliced cuts in the air so quickly that it made a brrring sound. A sound which I believe could be a relative of the sound a Wiffle ball makes. Now, this shall be the definition of my word for any usage, for it is my word and it shall be mine. 

Sand and dust were so thickly layered in the air, that she was ten feet from the church door before she saw it. Carmen pushed off of the tree that she gripped and felt the cool metal handle fall snuggly into her palm. With her last ounce of energy, she yanked open the door. Carmen fell onto her knees, more out of exhaustion than religion. But even her knees were so tired of brumbling, that she lay down on her side. The gentle hum of the wind soothed her. The very beast she feared, covered her eyes in sleep. But no sleep came. Carmen sat up. She let her breath flow quietly through her mouth as she did when in deep thought. Something was wrong. No not quite wrong, just different. The storm had stopped. She flew to the window, but in dismay, the land was still draped with darkness. It was an odd site that she saw, for ten feet from the church, winds whipped and swirled. Scattering picket fences and carrots around the town. But Carmen noticed that in the ten foot bubble that surrounded the church, nothing moved. Not a sound could be heard. She was in the eye of the storm. 
A faint scratching sound could be heard in a sea of silence. A sound most of us despise, writing on a chalkboard. This time, the sound caused Carmen great joy. She sprang from the window. Hello, she hollered, who’s there. She bounded past the altar and into the schoolroom. Carmen was bursting with questions, though whoever was in the schoolroom may have no answers, she was dying for someone to just share a conversation with. But as she swung through the doorway, hand on the frame, she saw not a soul in the room. Written on the chalkboard were the words Hello Carmen. “NO!” she screamed, “No, no, no. Be gone evil, I shut you out when I closed the door to those furious winds.” As cotton candy melts on your tongue, the words dripped off the board only to be replaced by the next message, You shut yourself in here with us. 

Carmen back stepped away from blackboard. She felt as she bumped into someone standing behind her. Not exactly someone, it felt more like a cloud of cold air, breathing a freezing mist down her back. She was afraid to turn, and rightly afraid at that, behind her stood a phantom. A terrible creature, most disturbing. It is not the holly jolly Casper sort of being nor is it the nasty type that spreads havoc in the wizard world. This ghoul is a magic so great that there was only enough evil to create one. Carmen stood facing it, cheeks sagging and jaw trembling. To gaze upon the Great Phantom, was to gaze at the face of death. A sight that was said to kill a man. But Carmen, bones shaking, was standing no less. The creature was a teardrop shape, sagging in its cloak of shadows. Its eyes were two white holes in its face, like dollops of cream on a chocolate pie. Though she could not see any pupils, Carmen could feel the Great Phantom’s eyes drilling a hole into her soul. It’s dangling arms swept forward to grab her, but Carmen dove away from its grasp. She ran to the doors, but no matter how she screamed and kicked, they would not budge. What happened next was a great many attempts of capturing Carmen and her diving and running and jumping to escape its clutch. Somewhere in the next few minutes, Carmen was trapped before the altar. Her back pressed into its wooden surface as she cowered from the phantom’s touch. She pressed so hard into altar, feet digging into the red-carpeted floor, that the nails which pinned the altar down gave. The Great Phantom, for all we know, cannot speak, so when the altar teetered backward, it gave a loud noted breath. The altar crashed to the floor with a crack. It split in two all the way from the top to the bottom. Now the phantom shrieked. It spoke words which had never been uttered before. “You should not have done that.” the Great Phantom rasped. For the altar was a portal into the Phantom's world, a place of shadows and a place of sorrow. The evil the phantom possessed was not meat for this world, it never would be. The earth was off balance. The mountains cracked, the mountains creaked. The mountains pushed the village right off the cliff. Carmen and the Great Phantom plummeted to the rocks below. 

Some say that the phantom is in the caves below the cliff, waiting, waiting. Others believe that he made it back to his own world, but I doubt it. For I have made the trek to the bottom of the cliff, scaling its rocky walls. I have wandered in the eroded caves and found a large chamber. It had in it the altar placed perfectly so that though the crack remains, the two halves fit together. Don’t tell me that any wave could do that. And behind the altar, scribbled on the wall, maybe by someone with terrible handwriting, or maybe someone in a hurry, is the message that follows.